PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 17: Panthers coach Ivan Cleary speaks to the media after the round 10 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the New Zealand Warriors at Panthers Stadium on May 17, 2019 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has confirmed spots are still up for grabs in his Round 1 side.

The defending premiers have lost Matt Burton and Kurt Capewell for the upcoming season, as well as Tyrone May, Paul Momirovski and Brent Naden, while Tevita Pangai Junior, who played a brief part of their premiership push at the end of the season, has gone to the Bulldogs.

Cleary seemingly has his starting 13 worked out though, telling Fox League before Penrith's first trial against the Cronulla Sharks that it's spots on his bench which are currently up for grabs.

"Not an actual 17. The balance of the bench is definitely up for grabs. We will have to see how we work it," Cleary said.

"The reality of life is that COVID can still play a part in every week, so we have to be adaptable. We have a bunch of guys who we think can add to our team throughout the year. It could be Round 1, could be later, we will see how we go.

RELATED: Panthers best 17 for 2022

It has been widely reported that Izack Tago will come into the centres for Burton, while Stephen Crichton will move back in for Momirovski, with Liam Martin to play in the second-row for Capewell.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 03: Stephen Crichton of the Panthers celebrates with Paul Momirovski of the Panthers after winning the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

It has left the likes of Mitch Kenny, Scott Sorensen, Spencer Leniu and Matthew Eisenhuth in the running for bench spots as they attempt to hold off youngsters like Eddie Blacker, Lindsay Smith or J'Maine Hopgood.

Cleary confirmed Tago has the front running for a spot in the centres however.

"Izack Tago has been filling that role at training," Cleary said.

"We sort of earmarked him to be playing that role at some point. We have high hopes for him but don't want to put him under any pressure either, so we will see how we go."